Press Release
February 21, 2010

Emergency mentality leads to disastrous programs - Loren

"Why should every situation for this administration be an emergency?" Nacionalista Party vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda said on Sunday in reaction to reports that some lawmakers are considering granting the President emergency powers to combat the effects of El Nino.

"Many of our so-called emergencies would not have caught the administration off guard if only it had the political will and foresight to prevent such emergencies from creeping up on us in the first place," Legarda, an environmental protection advocate, said, noting that she had long been warning of the dire effects climate change could have on the country.

"That's why some disaster programs turn out to be disasters themselves," she said. "We have become so used to stop-gap, patchwork measures, REACTIVE RATHER THAN PRO-ACTIVE. So now our unpreparedness is forcing to adopt such emergency measures, such as giving our farmers dole-outs for food so that they can work properly to feed us."

Legarda has just finished, along with running mate Manny Villar, a week-long campaign in the Visayas, where she saw for herself the effects of El Nino.

In an interview with a reporter on Friday at the Mactan International Airport, the "green VP" stressed that she has been warning the government for years on the dire effects of climate change, particularly El Niño, such as the brownouts looming over Mindanao, and drought that has parching parts of Northern Luzon and the Visayas.

With a food and water crisis threatening an already hungry population, it's no big comfort for her to say to the Arroyo administration: "I told you so."

"I can see that hunger incidents will rise by second and third quarter of this year," she said. "You don't have to be a surveyor or a pollster... In my speech several years ago, yung sinasabi ko - kung ilang taon na ang climate change, El Niño," she said.

"Time will come, believe me, when water will be more valuable than gold... At pagsisisisihan natin na sobra tayong sakim na mga tao. Hindi natin pinangalagaan ang kalikasan in the name of industrialization (And we will all regret that we have been too greedy. We didn't take care of the environment in the name of industrialization). We may have all the gold in the world, but if we don't have a healthy environment, we all die or lose our livelihood. Water will become a national security issue because it will become scarce."

What steps does she propose to take then?

"Our farmers are crying out loud," she said. "What can be done immediately is pantawid gutom. Yung cash transfers pantawid-gutom. Kailangang magbigay ang NFA (National Food Administration) ng bigas, kailangang magbigay ng dole-outs ang pamahalaan."

But that's just a short-term, stop-gap solution to what she thinks is a problem with long-term effects.

What she wants is for key measures to be put in place to fight the impending drought, and the resulting lack of food supply - a total log ban and a reform of the irrigation system.

"The total log ban should have been in place a long time ago," she said. "And there IS a total log ban in all watersheds and protected areas but no effective implementation of the law. We are suffering from degradation of environment and total climate change."

Funding, of course, has always been a problem.

"My challenge to Malacañang is to produce money for the people who are hungry," she said. "They should produce money for the farmers because they can produce money for their politics."

She chided the Department of Budget and Management for being so slow in the release of funds for various rehabilitation projects.

"Congress has been allotting funds," she said. "To be fair to the DA (Department of Agriculture), I talked to them and they said the funds for Ondoy and Pepeng have not been released since October. The funds for those affected by Typhoon Frank have not even been completely released. It's been two years."

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